The perception and discrimination of speed in complex motion

Vision Res. 1999 Jun;39(13):2213-27. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(98)00314-9.


Random dot kinematograms were used to simulate radial, rotational and spiral optic flow. The stimuli were designed so that, while dot speed increased linearly with distance from the centre of the display, the density of dots remained uniform throughout their presentation. In two experiments, subjects were required to perform a temporal 2AFC speed discrimination task. Experiment 1 measured the perceived speed of a range of optic flow patterns against a rotational comparison stimulus. Radial motions were found to appear faster than rotations by approximately 10%, with a smaller but significant effect for spirals. Experiment 2 measured discrimination thresholds for pairs of similar optic flow stimuli identical in all respects except mean speed. No consistent differences were observed between the speed discrimination thresholds of radial, rotational and spiral motions and a control stimulus with the same speed profile in which motion followed fixed random trajectories. The perceived speed results are interpreted in terms of a model satisfying constraints on motion-in-depth and object rigidity, while speed discrimination appears to be based upon the pooled responses of elementary motion detectors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Differential Threshold / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Rotation
  • Time Factors